A classicist, paradigmatic Sushi Chef resurfaces in Costa Mesa

January 24, 2009

A few years back the original owner of Shibucho (the downtown LA Yaohan plaza location) came back out of retirement to the U.S. to open up a new sushi parlor with his son in a mini-mall on 19th St in Costa Mesa (next door to an In N Out burger). His sushi has always been traditional, but he’s far from being fanatical about. You can order by the piece or the traditional omakase. Whichever way you decide to go you’ll still end up winning. Not all of his sushi melts on the mouth. In fact, one of the unique characteristics about sushi is the texture in addition of course to flavor. Some pieces are chewy and some not to much. Shibutani-san usually serves up a piece of cooked fish as an amuse-bouche before the onslaught of great raw fish. His wife will place a cup of piping hot green tea in a homemade pottery mug and refill it before you even realized you needed it. The service speaks in subtleties rather than being overbearing. The sushi bar reveals itself as a beautiful family operation. Trust Shibutani-san and he won’t steer you wrong. He also enjoys transfers his artistry to his customers and educate about the different varieties of fish out there. His unique homemade soy sauce, ponzu, and yuzu sauce only help to reinforce the lengths he goes to for his devoted customers. Dinner is quite reasonable at Shibucho. There are usually free tidbits thrown in on the house whether you are a regular or just becoming one.

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Boredaux or Burgundy with that Tuna Sashimi

January 24, 2009

Another noteworthy sushi shop, Shibucho, resides on a lonely stretch of Beverly Blvd away from the glitter of the fashionable Westside and the sushi heavy Ventura Blvd. The head chef and owner, Shige Kudo, bought the restaurant decades ago from his former employer who operated the original location of Shibucho on Alameda St on the top floor of Yoahan Plaza (now known as Mitsuwa Marketplace) in the heart of Little Tokyo back when people were merely starting to get the idea of what sushi can be. Shige serves all the usual sushi suspects in his almost hidden speakeasy bar reminiscent of bars scattered in back alleys of Tokyo. Shige has a preference for older Bordeaux and Burgundy to go with his sushi so the wine list is comprised of bottles from the 1950s and 1960s ranging in price into the hundreds of dollars. The reserve list is a fun read, which you can pour over if you’re waiting for the rest of your party to arrive. He does offer sake and beer. He only offers an omakase menu to regular customers who he has a trusted relationship with. Shige at times plays with tradition. For instance, he adds olive oil to seared albacore salad and once offered real French foie gras (imported from France) simply sautéed in a pan with pure butter, and possibly a sprinkle or two of salt. The ingredient itself, goose liver, sings without the presence of a sweet or sour sauce to disguise the true flavor of quality food. You would be hard pressed to find that at your neighborhood sushi bar unless you happen to live near the intersection of Beverly and Rampart. Italian and French desserts are offered here from a smooth, intense chocolate mousse to a restrained, light tiramisu. Sometimes a reservation is required for the bar. It’s helpful to note that Shibucho on Beverly remains open until midnight (though used to close at 3 in the morning), so you can get some albacore sushi, tiramisu, and a glass of 1961 Cheval Blanc as a coda to your late nite flick.

Brief Sushi History in Los Angeles (post-1970)

January 24, 2009

Sushi has been integral to the dissemination of exceptional food in Los Angeles. Ventura Blvd likely houses more sushi parlors per block than any piece of real estate worldwide. The San Fernando Valley, where Ventura Blvd covers a wide stretch from East to West, does not have an immense Japanese population living there. But it does have the highest concentration of sushi bars anywhere. There is the sushi restaurant where the waiters tap dance as they serve you newfangled rolls. All you can eat sushi bars make their presence known. Even the purported creator of the California roll (a concoction of snow crab, avocado, and rice wrapped into nori and cut into bite-size pieces) makes its home on the Blvd. Sushi, namely fresh fish, can be a health food pointing towards our collective fascination with the once exotic though now more commonplace association with raw fish. One need only go back to the 1970s and Little Tokyo’s Tokyo Kaikan to notice the humble beginnings of sushi restaurants in LA.

The Sushi Despot…His way or the Higway, what did think this was burger king?

January 24, 2009

A famously strict sushi bar which seems to be a rite of passage for studio execs and TV stars is firmly situated in a non-descript mini-mall. Chef and owner Kazunori Nozawa of the eponymous Sushi Nozawa on Ventura Blvd, near Universal Studios, in Studio City has been serving up sushi his way or the highway since the 1980s. Many now successful sushi chefs are acolytes of Nozawa’s now almost patented “Chef’s Choice: Trust Me” sytle of sushi. Urban legend goes that Nozawa will throw you out on your bum if you so as happen to mention a predilection for California or spicy tuna rolls. Some sashimi (almost always baby tuna), nigiri-zushi, and some simple rolls such as his to-die-for blue crab hand rolls are served up here. There is no tempura nor other cooked foods here. You’d be hard pressed to find a bowl of miso soup. A cartoonist of The Simpson’s even has a piece of cell animation depicting a traditional sushi chef (possibly Nozawa himself?) admonishing Homer for reaching over the counter and snatching a whole fish. The décor at Sushi Nozawa can be summed up as pedestrian at best. One conjures up images of a cheap Americanized Chinese takeout joint, not the epitome of fresh sushi where the bill can run upwards of a C-note person with a beer or two.

What you’ll get here is tuna over rice along with yellowtail, red snapper, scallop, shrimp, halibut, albacore, and maybe a hand roll or two from a monkfish liver roll to the famous blue crab one. All are of the utmost freshness from a chef obsessed with scouring the local fish market downtown for the only the freshest in the early morning hours. Sometimes he will allow you a couple extras that you can specifically ask for once he has finished his set omakase (literally translated as to entrust or to protect, more readily identified as chef’s choice). Sometimes there can be an arduous wait while at other times a seat opens up quickly. As a side note, Sushi Nozawa closes on the weekends. Nozawa has a pressing golf game to attend to on those days so you’ll have to make do until the business week commences anew.

L.A. Southern Fried Chicken…an Oxymoron, I’ll be the judge of that.

January 24, 2009

Fried Chicken:

We have been on a search for fried chicken in Los Angeles for what seems like ages. But it is beyond difficult to find the immaculate Southern fried version of yore or even other possible versions. One of the best places around that is now defunct (Paio in Silverlake) served up my favorite upscale version, which incorporated both the fried with the smoked to create the most utterly delectable BBQ fried chicken around. Los Angeles does try to shy away from deep fried foods (although the denizens of LA do like fatty foods or else there would not be a phalanx patiently waiting for guacamole sour cream chili nacho cheese dogs at all hours of the day at Pink’s). It is not exactly detailed in the firmament of the city’s health nut scriptures.

One can get their fried chicken fix at the minimalistic, mini-mall situated Flossie’s along an active stretch of Redondo Beach Blvd in Torrance, just a few blocks away from the ubiquitous ramen and shabu shabu joints popping up all over the place. In case you get misty eyed about watching airplanes flying over head, LAX is merely a hop, skip, and a jump away. So finally you’re at the beginning of the steam table counter at Flossie’s, after staring at the signage touting their use of 100% cholesterol-free vegetable oil for hours and marveling at the Mason jars holding pickled, preserved vegetables scattered around the shelves. Meat and threes are the name of the game just as it would be Deep South cities such as Biloxi or Bay St. Louis. The fried chicken will do a southern grandmother proud as will the syrupy though expertly spiced candied yams, tart collard greens, and smooth mac n cheese to round out your plate dinner. Dinners here can ultimately feed a family of three and arrive with a choice of a buttermilk biscuit or cornbread, a dessert such as banana pudding or blackberry cobbler, and a glass of official-tasting sweet tea or Kool-Aid to wash it all down. Be careful or else someone will have to roll you out of the place.

If your fried chicken fix has still not left you satisfied, then perhaps a visit and plenty of spare time is warranted to the Lilliputian pan-fried chicken joint, Maurice’s Snack n’ Chat – Fried Chicken to Go. It’s easy to miss since it remains a mere spec on the vast boulevard. Maurice Prince, the proprietor/chef, had once owned a ultimately more upscale, almost haute Southern sit-down restaurant a few blocks west along Pico Blvd where celebrities and movie starts would be coddled to no end and served heavy, homemade foods such as smothered short ribs, pork chops, fried chicken, and occasionally (on advance) Southern soufflé known as spoonbread. Stretch limos would idle double-parked outside while the starts inside would slum it munching on crispy, juicy fried chicken on a stretch of a Pico more known for body shops and liquor stores than for haute food. Eventually, all good things come to an end. Ms. Prince lost her lease or may have had other financial problems, but after a few years on hiatus she resurfaced to the new takeout shop (just a block or so west of the infamous Oki Dog) where only fried chicken and Southern sides are served up in a space barely containing a couple makeshift tables and some of the relics and tchotchkes of her old place. On a recent visit, the octogenarian Maurice greeted me with a Texas howdy. She told me that no one seems to make the kind of fried chicken she makes anymore. Let’s hope she’s right. Everything here is served a la carte and made-to-order. Even though it looks like a fast food shack from the outside, the food here is more aligned with the slow food movement popular with epicureans these days.

Maurice mentioned in passing that it would take a little more than a while. So what you do here is you wait, and you wait, and you wait a little more. As she went back in the kitchen to start up the cast iron skillet for the pan-frying, my eyes started to wander. A bunch of autographed headshots of actors and politicos from Henry Winkler to the late Johnnie Cochran to Diane Feinstein line one wall. You half expect a vintage Magic Hour Lakers jersey to be hanging from one wall like a precious tapestry. A couple faded reviews of her old place on Pico near Sierra Bonita were displayed, along with one praising here aforementioned spoonbread. There were close to a dozen certificates from the LA Chamber of Commerce to a National Geographic Centennial to even a cool swimming certificate from an aquatic center. In another corner, an old, burnished armoire with trinkets spread across it stood in veneration.

When the chicken arrives (after the better part of an hour), you bite it into some of the most beautiful, mahogany colored, shatteringly crispy skinned, incredibly well-spiced fried chicken around town. The candied yams that will arrive are freshly cut, cooked, and blissfully not too sweet though the greens are just ok along with the cornbread stuffing. If you happen to have saved some room, the warm coconut cake is not to be missed. Small mom-and-pop cafes like this are what makes Los Angeles such a great place to eat. You usually can’t get character and great food at the same place. Most of the corporate, chain restaurants spreading across the county sacrifice one over the other and sadly usually both.

Go’s Mart or is it Go…Smart???

January 24, 2009

I’d tried Go’s Mart a couple years back, but this was my second and recent visit. I got on the freeway and trudged on down all the way to the West Valley, and the number of sushi bars actually start to drop off once you get past Woodland Hills.

I got onto Sherman Way and pulled into the awkardly shaped though still cookied cutter, nondescript mini-mall taht houses Go’s Mart. The large sign that lists the inhabitants of the mini-mall sadly didn’t inlcude a even a mention of Go’s.

But Go’s Mart is a tiny storefront situated next to a tanning salon and nearby to a good old fashioned pizza joint we like to call Papa John’s. The sign for Go’s Mart is a neon item above the door simpling stating SUSHI and that’s it. Once you walk inside, you notice a multidude of shelves holding what else but Japanese videos (or maybe not, I must apoligize that I didn’t take the time to look closely enough). There were a couple of refrigerator cases on the right holding a few different sakes, some Japanese beers (the usual suspects), a Japanese soda, and cokes and diet cokes. Before you notice the actual sushi bar, you set your eyes upon a fish butcher’s case with a scale on top. The bar seats maybe eight tops, along with a couple two-tops and a single four top.

I took a seat at the counter as one of the assistants asked if I wanted food to-go. I told him for here and took a seat at the counter. The sushi chef was serving a Japanese man and his wife and chatting them up, so I kind of felt out of place a little, sort of like crashing a private party. There was no one else in the joint at the time.

I ordered some ankimo (monkfish liver) sashimi to start, which arrived beautifully sliced and cold as it should be in my opinion (sad to say, but I’m not a fan of warmed up ankimo). The slices were pure butter and I’ll once again reiterate the old cliche that ankimo is the foie gras of the sea. It was sauce with some sweet miso, and worked beautifully with the ankimo.

The man told me that this was truly the unsung gem of LA sushi. And I think I won’t disagree with that.

I asked the chef about the kawagishi toro and understood it too be the toro that is scraped away from the bone, so it’s pure toro, no sinews or fibers or whatever, just beatiful bliss as it were. I received one piece of this toro plus a piece of the chu-toro. The difference between the two was night and day. The chu was reminscent of maguro compared to the kawishigshi toro, but the caviar and gold leaf did help the whole endeavor.

The kawishigi was so good that I had to have another piece towards the end of the meal. It’s very reminiscent of a great high-quality toro tartare and the kawigishi just melts in your mouth like pure butter.

I also had a piece of maguro and a piece of buri (which is a type of wild Japanese yellowtail, I had asked about hamachi but you cautioned me to try the buri) and both were swell, but the buri was a thing of beauty. Some of the best yellowtail I have ever had.

As I was eating the place started to fill up both at the bar and at the tables. A few teenagers took seats at a table and munched on what seemed like the rolls portion of the menu. I forgot to mention that Go’s Mart also serves a wide variety of rolls of the spider, dynamite, spicy tuna, ganja, soft shell crab roll ilk. I’m sure they’d be somewhat better than what you’d get at Crazy Fish or Sushi Mac, et al.

I also tried a piece of a conch-like seafood which I have already forgot the name of, which was good, though very chewy but not as much as octopus or abalone.

I noticed the words “Holy Cow” on the chalkboard menu above the counter and asked about what that was. Foolishly, I had presumed it was some kind of new fangled roll. The chef replied that it was cow, MOO!. In fact, Kobe beef. But not from America, it was from Japan. So I had to order a piece. He took out a slab of it, and slice a thin piece and placed it on a metal container and then began to sear it with the handheld blowtorch. It was delicious, though not as exceptional as I believed Kobe beef to be and yet it had a lingering beefiness that hit you moments after you devoured the piece.

I saw the grilled toro steak listed on the chalkboard so followed up with that item to which the chef said “Good choice”. In fact, he said that in response to many items I had ordered. After a few minutes, cooked pieces of toro arrived showered with gold leaf and a light ponzu. Here is the one slight let down. The cooked toro was good but not as great as the toro or kawigishi toro sushi.

Lastly, I finished off with a piece of tamago. It was good though it did not have the sponecake quality that the tamago has at places such as Urasawa.

I washed all this down with a beer and a couple cokes. A truly great unsung sushi joint, which come to think of it, I have never heard even mentioned once in the mainstream press.

Los Angeles BBcue, Deelicious.

January 23, 2009

Barbeque:
BBQ may just be one of the sweetest words in the English language or any other lingua franca for that matter. At least, among people who think nothing of driving a hundred miles or so outside of town just to receive a few bites of gastronomic authenticity. Others have delved so deeply into and whole hog into the lexicon of bbq that they have no choice, but to devote their entire doctoral dissertations on the topic. But here the point is American BBQ whether a regionality unique to Memphis, Central Texas, Kansas City, Oakland, North Carolina or even Los Angeles. It can take on the guise of shredded, pulled pork (from the pork shoulder, of course) with a pungent proprietary vinegar cue sauce slapped all over it and sidled into a squishy hamburger bun. Or perhaps beef brisket smoked over hickory logs for hours on end until the mahogany smoke ring is just so. Or maybe it’s a slab of hefty pork ribs smoked and slathered in a sweetish, molasses-tinged sauce to rival the intricate mole sauces of Oaxaca.
We are blessed with BBQ of substance in Los Angeles no matter how vehemently the ex-pat Southerners will decry it. The message here is not the Lucille’s or Tony Roma’s that have colonized shopping centers and fashionable thoroughfares throughout the heart of the Southland and continue to multiply, but rather the individual mom-and-pop operations who go about their business quietly through the merest of take-out windows and plastic utensils.
One such place is Phillip’s BBQ, which actually started with one location in Leimert Park, near the Crenshaw District and has continued to a total of three outfits, a veritable mini-empire. (Though we will not think of it as a chain in the usual sense of the word.) The original along Leimert Park, barely much larger than a telephone booth, is sandwiched between a liquor store and a hair salon. Cue fans are usually huddled three-deep in a queue that stretches throughout the narrow vestibule and outside across to the salon. The chimney lets out gusts of thick hickory smoke which perfumes the air like nothing less than heaven. You wait in line patiently take a look at what you want usually either short-end pork ribs, gargantuan beef ribs, hot links (beef or chicken, from locale links purveyor Pete’s Homemade Louisiana Links along Jefferson Blvd), sliced beef, or bbq chicken. Your sides will usually be either homemade potato salad or macaroni salad or the stupendous sweet though spicy bbq baked beans. Once you have ordered take your tiny numbered receipt and wait patiently or rather impatiently for your bag of food to arrive. Perhaps it’s time to strike up a conversation with your fellow citizens. If you happen to need something stronger than Diet Coke to go with your bbq, then take a short jaunt to the liquor store for some beers. As a note, Phillip’s only does take out so everything is wrapped up to go. You can munch on your beautiful ribs sluiced with hot peppery bbq sauce with dried red chile peppers swimming on top the ribs in your car or the nearby namesake shoebox park if happen to lack the will power and self-control to trudge on back home.
Plenty of napkins are a necessity (make sure you specifically ask for extras, which are served gratis though extra sauce is not) and if your vehicle escapes unscathed from the heavy sauce stains then you may just be an artist worthy of a retrospective at the Guggenheim. The two other locations are in Inglewood and an easy access one on Crenshaw Blvd, catty corner to the I-10 Fwy off ramp.
If you have happened to stumble upon the Compton-Gardena corridor after a few too many hands of Texas Hold ‘Em at the Hustler Casino, there is surely no better place for bbq than Jay Bee’s BBQ, a teensy almost triangular island in the middle of what apparently seems to be nowhere. The stand looks like it could pop up off a dirt road in a rural, back roads tour of central Texas. Blink and you’ll surely miss it. The proprietors of Jay’s seem to have a certain familial relationship to the long-standing Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ in Memphis, which is always a welcome sign. The take-out menus sport the logo of Neely’s famed anthropomorphic porcine cartoon. Little does he know that the hungry hordes are about to descend upon and devour him and his brethren. Jay Bee’s set itself apart from Phillip’s due to actual available seating on the premises. The seating is limited to a few token wrought-iron tables on the outside patio where you bus the tables and wipe off excess sauce on your behalf. The menu comprises the usual delicious suspects of pork or beef ribs, links, chicken, and a pulled pork sandwich. The beef ribs drowning in bbq sauce takes on more sweetness than the intricate sauce doled out at Phillip’s across town. But it will suffice in a pinch.
Another shack that reinforces it’s old participation in the lumber business back in rural Louisiana is J n J Burger and BBQ, on Adams near Culver City, but situated more in the southern reaches of the Fairfax district. The proprietor houses a takeout burger counter on one side of the stand and a bbq operation on the other. Others also swear by their chili and pastrami burgers, but we can only attest to the greatest of the cue side of the deal. Just tap the bell on the counter, and usually Jay will appear and take care of you. BBQ is served here with a thin, though spicy sauce. The sauce lacks the complexity of a Phillip’s or Jay Bee’s, but the wood smoke embedded in J n J’s ribs makes itself known. He also prices his meals considerably below the competition so please do make use of an extra side of collard greens or mac ‘n cheese or one of his mom’s crushingly beautiful slices of sweet potato pie. That is when she’s still up to the challenge of meeting Jay’s demands. Staring at the logs of wood, chopped, and stacked over a story high, there simply can be no better place to contemplate the virtues of some woodsy cue. It doesn’t hurt that Jay’s lays claim to some of the best baked beans in all of South LA too.

Go’s Mart or is it Go…Smart?

January 23, 2009

I’d tried Go’s Mart a couple years back, but this was my second and recent visit. I got on the freeway and trudged on down all the way to the West Valley, and the number of sushi bars actually start to drop off once you get past Woodland Hills.
I got onto Sherman Way and pulled into the awkardly shaped though still cookied cutter, nondescript mini-mall taht houses Go’s Mart. The large sign that lists the inhabitants of the mini-mall sadly didn’t inlcude a even a mention of Go’s.
But Go’s Mart is a tiny storefront situated next to a tanning salon and nearby to a good old fashioned pizza joint we like to call Papa John’s. The sign for Go’s Mart is a neon item above the door simpling stating SUSHI and that’s it. Once you walk inside, you notice a multidude of shelves holding what else but Japanese videos (or maybe not, I must apoligize that I didn’t take the time to look closely enough). There were a couple of refrigerator cases on the right holding a few different sakes, some Japanese beers (the usual suspects), a Japanese soda, and cokes and diet cokes. Before you notice the actual sushi bar, you set your eyes upon a fish butcher’s case with a scale on top. The bar seats maybe eight tops, along with a couple two-tops and a single four top.
I took a seat at the counter as one of the assistants asked if I wanted food to-go. I told him for here and took a seat at the counter. The sushi chef was serving a Japanese man and his wife and chatting them up, so I kind of felt out of place a little, sort of like crashing a private party. There was no one else in the joint at the time.
I ordered some ankimo (monkfish liver) sashimi to start, which arrived beautifully sliced and cold as it should be in my opinion (sad to say, but I’m not a fan of warmed up ankimo). The slices were pure butter and I’ll once again reiterate the old cliche that ankimo is the foie gras of the sea. It was sauce with some sweet miso, and worked beautifully with the ankimo.
The man told me that this was truly the unsung gem of LA sushi. And I think I won’t disagree with that.
I asked the chef about the kawagishi toro and understood it too be the toro that is scraped away from the bone, so it’s pure toro, no sinews or fibers or whatever, just beatiful bliss as it were. I received one piece of this toro plus a piece of the chu-toro. The difference between the two was night and day. The chu was reminscent of maguro compared to the kawishigshi toro, but the caviar and gold leaf did help the whole endeavor.
The kawishigi was so good that I had to have another piece towards the end of the meal. It’s very reminiscent of a great high-quality toro tartare and the kawigishi just melts in your mouth like pure butter.
I also had a piece of maguro and a piece of buri (which is a type of wild Japanese yellowtail, I had asked about hamachi but you cautioned me to try the buri) and both were swell, but the buri was a thing of beauty. Some of the best yellowtail I have ever had.
As I was eating the place started to fill up both at the bar and at the tables. A few teenagers took seats at a table and munched on what seemed like the rolls portion of the menu. I forgot to mention that Go’s Mart also serves a wide variety of rolls of the spider, dynamite, spicy tuna, ganja, soft shell crab roll ilk. I’m sure they’d be somewhat better than what you’d get at Crazy Fish or Sushi Mac, et al.
I also tried a piece of a conch-like seafood which I have already forgot the name of, which was good, though very chewy but not as much as octopus or abalone.
I noticed the words “Holy Cow” on the chalkboard menu above the counter and asked about what that was. Foolishly, I had presumed it was some kind of new fangled roll. The chef replied that it was cow, MOO!. In fact, Kobe beef. But not from America, it was from Japan. So I had to order a piece. He took out a slab of it, and slice a thin piece and placed it on a metal container and then began to sear it with the handheld blowtorch. It was delicious, though not as exceptional as I believed Kobe beef to be and yet it had a lingering beefiness that hit you moments after you devoured the piece.
I saw the grilled toro steak listed on the chalkboard so followed up with that item to which the chef said “Good choice”. In fact, he said that in response to many items I had ordered. After a few minutes, cooked pieces of toro arrived showered with gold leaf and a light ponzu. Here is the one slight let down. The cooked toro was good but not as great as the toro or kawigishi toro sushi.
Lastly, I finished off with a piece of tamago. It was good though it did not have the sponecake quality that the tamago has at places such as Urasawa.
I washed all this down with a beer and a couple cokes. A truly great unsung sushi joint, which come to think of it, I have never heard even mentioned once in the mainstream press.

The Mournful Bashir

January 23, 2009

THE MOURNFUL ‘WALT WITH BASHIR’
Waltz with Bashir documents the elusive memory of the filmmaker, Ari Folman, along with his fellow soldiers concerning the 1982 Lebanon War, including the massive genocidal massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shattila refugee camps. But this is no ordinary nor traditional documentary. It is correct that there are talking heads viewed throughout the film, but not in the classic sense. Ultimately, the film becomes part documentary, part hallucination, and completely compelling and harrowing. Yet, a devastating meditation on memory is also proffered.
Like Picasso’s groundbreaking masterwork Guernica, Folman deals with the subject at hand, the events and significant emotions imparted on the participants of the Lebanon War through abstraction. In this case, the filmmaker depicts his creatively unique documentary through computer animation, which brings to life the otherworldly hallucinations of the soldiers whether being nurtured in the arms of a beautiful, gigantic though nurturing sea nymph along with the reminisce of an Israeli soldier dancing the waltz as he riddles snipers in the Beirut hotel above with countless bullets.
Ari Folman’s memory of his months in the war came back to him gradually through interviews with the soldiers. His suppression of memory only rears its head as a friend and soldier depicts in haunting detail the nightmare of twenty-six dogs coming after him through the streets of Beirut. This brief meeting spearheads the ensuing meetings that structure the remainder of the film. As soldiers they all share a common goal of getting out alive. But when one solider mentions the atrocity of the massacre to a superior, the commanding officer passes it off with utter indifference, returning to the more pressing matters of the classic German shizer film. The superiors, or soldiers positioned in the upper echelons of the military hierarchy, are no different than commanders in other militaries.
The ensuing years, after 1982, have made the young soldiers older, of course. Yet, they still hold on to painful though fading memories of the yesteryear, which is only brought to the suface through casual conversations between Ari and his fellow soldiers whether discussing over coffee or shared cigarettes and Irish car bombs. That the movie hints at the ultimate massacre at Sabra and Shattila from the start is a given.
Since Folman chose animation as his medium, the film goes to the intense realms of war more powerfully. Visually, the animation is stunning and draws us in quickly with its hard lines and strong definition. This uniqueness adds to the allure of the entire enterprise though thankfully it does not detract from it. The film does not end on an animated note, but rather with actual footage of the aftermath of the massacre. The brief documentary episode shows the dead, bloodied corpses in gruesome detail while the surviving mothers wail in unimaginable horror.

Hello world!

January 23, 2009

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